Just so you know you missed them

In a few days at the end of the month, both the southern delta Aquariids and the alpha Capricornids (both meteor showers, and that’s apparently the way you should capitalize them) will be peaking, though I really should have told you about this earlier, because now the moon will be still a bit bright and visibility thus greatly reduced for all but the brightest meteors – both were ‘active’ for the past couple of weeks and will remain so until mid-August-ish. This means that you have lots of chances of missing them, and can blame it on numerous factors.

Funny – early morning on the 15th, both The Girlfriend and I looked up at the clear skies above central New York, seeing both the Milky Way and small patches of cloud that were about identical, and a meteor streaked right through my line of sight (not hers, though,) reminding me of how good the visibility is up there. I used to see them very frequently, even during non-peak periods, while out walking at nights when I lived there, far more frequently than here even when I was out specifically during peaks to view meteors. Did I see a southern delta Aquariid, or an alpha Capricornid, or one totally unrelated to either? I don’t think there’s a way to tell, or even a reason, to be honest – the goal is to see a momentary streak of light, or preferably a huge trail with particles splitting off and residual airglow for some minutes afterward – who cares what the origin is? I’d be happy with a few satellites colliding during re-entry.

Speaking of that, there’s enough damn satellites (the manmade ones) up there now that avoiding them in time exposures is next to impossible; the last six or more meteors that I thought I’d captured were all demonstrably satellites, so, don’t get excited with streaks across your frame anymore. What we should be pursuing now is the rare, brilliant bolides that light up the sky. I’ve only seen them a handful of times, even during the spectacular 2001 Leonids, so it will take more effort and luck than even lightning.

But, you can’t miss them entirely unless you’re actually trying – otherwise it’s just, “Oh, yeah, there was a meteor shower last week, wasn’t there?” That doesn’t count. So get out there and stare fruitlessly at the skies, and then stare at the resulting exposures and compare the frames before and after to see if there’s a continued trail (meaning goddamn satellite.) Only then can you take pride in the failure, or something.

Of course, if you do actually photograph a brilliant example, you’ve failed at failing, and you might take some pride in that (and the resulting image,) but rest assured that I won’t think better of you.

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